Should You Play Skilled or Non-Skilled Casino Games?

While all casino games are lumped into the gambling category, some differ based on the amount of skill involved.

Slot machines are almost entirely based on luck. Poker, in contrast, features a much higher degree of skill than slots.

Many gamblers underestimate the role of skill and luck when they choose casino games.

They may pick slots because they read about a multimillion-dollar jackpot winner or choose poker after seeing somebody win a WSOP event.

While these are perfectly fine inspirations to play a casino game, one should also consider how much or little strategy they want to deal with.

I’m going to cover non-skilled and skill-based games in depth while also discussing the pros and cons of each category.

What Are Some Non-Skilled Games?

Defining luck-based forms of gambling can be tricky. Some games don’t involve any skill in the playing process, but they do offer a better chance to win with certain bets.

For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll include any game in this category that doesn’t involve strategy beyond choosing bets. Baccarat, craps, roulette, and slot machines all fall into this group.

Slot Machines

Slot machines are the most random affair in the casino. You merely spin the reels and wait for your results.

The main slots strategy involves choosing games with high return to player (RTP). High proRTP means that you’ll win more money on average over the long term. Payback worth 95% or more is generally considered good.

Finding high RTP is easy with online slots because payback figures are widely available for most games. You can simply Google “[game name] RTP” to find what you’re looking for.

With land-based slot machines, coin denominations are the only information you have to go off of. Normally, slots with higher coin denominations offer better RTP.

The strategy for slot machines ends here. You’re at the mercy of the random number generator (RNG) once you spin the reels.

Baccarat

Baccarat allows you to bet on the banker hand winning, the player hand winning, or both hands tying. Below, you can see the house edges for each of these wagers.

  • Banker bet = 1.06% house edge (after 5% commission taken from wins)
  • Player bet = 1.24%
  • Tie bet = 14.36% (with 8:1 payout)

You literally bet on the banker hand every time to execute perfect strategy. Considering that most baccarat players learn this at some point, the game has very little skill involved.

Craps

Craps can be confusing when considering that it offers dozens of bets. You’ll likely be confused the first time you look at the craps felt and see numerous little boxes.

But all you really have to know is that pass line, don’t pass line, come, and don’t come are the best bets. Here’s the house edge on all of these wagers.

  • Don’t pass line = 1.36% house edge
  • Don’t come = 1.36%
  • Pass line = 1.41%
  • Come = 1.41%

The craps table features a few other favorable bets, including place 6 and place 8 (both 1.52% house edge). However, you really don’t have to bet on anything outside of the four wagers listed above.

Also, note that you can only bet on pass line and don’t pass line on the “come out” roll (first roll of a new round). You must wait for a point number to be established before wagering on come or don’t come.

Most casinos allow you to back all four of these bets with an “odds” wager, which pays at true odds and doesn’t have a house edge.

An odds bet doesn’t lower the house advantage on your original bet (e.g., pass line). But it does give you a rare chance to make a 50/50 bet with the casino.

Other than placing the four wagers covered here and backing them with odds, you can’t do anything else to influence your chances in craps.

Some gambling experts claim that you can throw the dice in a certain manner to produce desired results (a.k.a. dice control). However, nobody has ever proven with any degree of confidence that dice control works.

Roulette

Roulette features two different types of wheels, including the American and European wheel. Here are the key differences between them.

American roulette wheel

  • 38 numbers
  • House-friendly zero and double zero pockets
  • 26% house edge

European roulette wheel

  • 37 numbers
  • House-friendly zero pocket
  • 70% house edge

You can see that your best odds lie with European roulette, but you can take things a step further by seeking out French roulette.

The French version features the la partage rule, which pays half back on losing even-money bets when the ball lands on zero. You therefore reduce the house edge to 1.35% by sticking with even-money bets.

The best “strategy” is to find a French game. If this isn’t possible, you want to pick a European wheel. Once you choose the right game, roulette doesn’t involve any other true strategy.

Pros of Non-Skilled Gambling

Luck-based forms of gambling offer inherent advantages over playing games with heavy strategy. Here are the key reasons why you should consider unskilled casino games.

No Need to Study Extensive Strategy

If you’re not the type who enjoys diving into gambling strategy, then you’ll appreciate non-skilled gaming.

You should put some effort into figuring out which games and bets offer the best odds, but you don’t have to learn any tips for actually playing non-skilled games.

Relax and Enjoy the Action

Everybody’s reason for gambling differs. You may just want to unwind after a long day of work or find quick entertainment on the weekend.

Luck-based games are perfect for either of these purposes. You might get really into the action based on whether you’re winning or losing, but you don’t have to worry about overthinking your decisions in the process.

If you’re playing slot machines, for example, you just pick a game and start spinning the reels. Assuming you’re playing baccarat, you just wager on the banker hand again and again and hope to get lucky.

Large Betting Variety

One odd thing I’ve noticed is that unskilled casino games generally offer a lot more bets than skilled-based gambling.

Take roulette, for instance, which features dozens of available bets on its board. You can choose the simpler “outside” wagers, or you can try the numerous “inside” bets that are offered within the grid.

Craps is the same way because it offers a huge variety of prop bets. You can wager on the dice showing a specific value (i.e., 3) or even make bets that encompass multiple numbers (e.g., field bet).

Slot machines don’t technically offer different types of bets. However, you can find thousands of slots games across land-based and online casinos.

Baccarat is the odd game among the group because you only have access to three different wagers. But if betting variety is important you, then go with the three other games.

Cons of Non-Skilled Casino Games

Simple games are appealing from the perspective that you don’t have to learn strategy and can just sit back and relax.

But not every gambler finds this scenario ideal. That said, you should keep the following downsides in mind.

No Control Over Results

The biggest problem with unskilled forms of gambling is that you can’t do much to improve your position.

Some games let you boost your odds by picking the right variations and bets.

However, you won’t be able to use any in-game strategy to influence the results. This is a huge downside for players who want some control over their chances of winning.

Lack of Interactivity

Games like slot machines and baccarat don’t give you much chance to interact with the action. A slot machine only requires you to spin the reels.

With baccarat, you don’t even have to understand how the scoring system works to play. You merely need to know the best bet.

Contrast this to blackjack or poker, where you must constantly be thinking and making decisions in each round.

Long-Term Losing Proposition

No luck-based casino game offers a long-term winning proposition. After all, the casino isn’t going to give you an edge when all you’re doing is laying chips on a roulette table or spinning reels.

Every non-skilled game features a house edge. Some of these games have a high house advantage that accelerates your chances of losing.

Slot machines and land-based casinos are notorious for quickly taking your money. Penny slots are especially bad because they often have around a 10% house edge.

What Are Some Skilled Casino Games?

Some skill-based casino games feature a house edge while others don’t. Blackjack and most video poker variations do give the casino a slight edge, while poker and sports betting don’t.

Regardless of whether there’s a house advantage, these games all require a great deal of strategy in order to boost your odds. You can see more on popular skilled games below.

Blackjack

Blackjack requires you to beat the dealer’s hand without going over a score of 21. Accomplishing this goal on a consistent basis isn’t easy when considering how many different decisions you must make in a session.

You can hit or stand on any hand. You can also split your hand with a pair or double down once your first two cards are dealt.

The trick is knowing when to make each of these decisions based on your score and the dealer’s upcard. Using perfect blackjack strategy can feel difficult in the beginning.

However, you can quickly get up to speed by studying a blackjack strategy chart. These tools are widely found across the internet.

You’re allowed to use strategy charts in land-based casinos, but they frown upon anybody who is constantly referring to their chart.

You may want to start out playing online blackjack and referring to your strategy chart before visiting a land-based casino. This practice lets you get used to making the right decisions before playing in a live situation.

Depending upon the game rules and your skill level, you may be facing anywhere from a 0.5% to 3% house edge with blackjack. You therefore want to brush up on strategy and find the best rules in order to win.

Poker

Some of the most popular poker variations are:

They are also perhaps the most difficult card games to master in the casino.

Rather than facing the casino and using static strategy, you’re competing against other players who can make adjustments. You not only have to master playing good hands in the right spots but also reading your opponents and making proper bet sizes.

The exciting thing about poker is that there’s no house edge. As long as you can outplay your opponents and beat the rake (casino’s commission), then you can win profits.

Of course, reaching this level takes a lot of hard work. The game is especially tough today, given the wide availability of strategy.

You must be really dedicated to improving to the point where you can win on a consistent basis. You also need good bankroll management skills to survive downswings.

Esports Betting and Sports Betting

Sports betting is another form of gambling that gives you a chance to win money in the long run. Esports betting, which is very similar to sports gambling, offers the same opportunity.

Whether wagering on sports or video games, the goal is to beat the odds and “juice.” The latter refers to the small commission that bookmakers take from the losing side of each bet.

You can refer to win-rate charts to figure out how often you must be successful based on the odds. For example, you need to win 52.5% of the time to beat -110 odds.

Good handicapping skills can allow you to determine which side of a line has the most value. You can also use software to find useful trends and create your own winning sports betting systems.

Video Poker

Video poker is similar to blackjack in that it’s a strategic game with a house edge. The good news, though, is that you won’t be facing a very large house advantage if you play the right games and use proper strategy.

9/6 Jacks or Better, for example, only has a 0.46% casino edge when perfect strategy is used. The key is to figure out how to properly play each variation.

You can find strategy charts for Jacks or Better, just like with blackjack. Unfortunately, not all video poker variations feature these handy charts.

In these cases, you can use a training program. A video poker trainer points out mistakes so that you can stop making these plays and improve your skills.

Some video poker variants actually give you a chance to win over 100% payback, but these games are only available in select Las Vegas casinos.

Pros of Skill-Based Games

Skilled casino games let you use strategy to boost your odds. In many cases, these games offer the best chances of winning in the casino. Here’s a look at why you should put the work into learning these forms of gambling.

Have Control Over Your Winnings

A skill-less casino game puts you at the mercy of fate. Strategy-based games, on the other hand, give you an opportunity to control your destiny.

Even if you’re not a great blackjack or poker player, you may appreciate that each decision impacts your long-term chances of winning. As a good gambler, you’ll really enjoy having an opportunity to steer results one way or the other.

Use Stimulating Strategy

Skill-based casino games don’t see you sit idly by while your bets hang in the balance. Instead, they require you to be constantly thinking about your next move.

  • Should you hit with a score of 13 against the dealer’s 5 upcard?
  • Do you want to re-raise the poker opponent who just raised you?

These are the types of decisions you’re faced with when playing skill-based games. They’re also the choices that keep you more engaged in the action.

Win Long-Term Profits

Gambling shouldn’t be viewed as a viable career opportunity until you have the necessary skills and bankroll to succeed. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to think about winning big profits with certain forms of gaming.

Poker is arguably the most lucrative game because it’s made a number of multi-millionaires over the years. Even if you never reach this level, though, you can still look forward to winning a few dollars here and there at lower stakes.

Sports betting allows you to gamble on exciting events and potentially make a profit while doing so. Some bettors, like Haralabos Voulgaris and Billy Walters, have made a good living with sports gambling.

Esports betting is yet another option for winning long-term profits. You can combine your love of video game competitions with gambling to earn big money.

Cons of Skill-Based Gambling

The idea of sitting in a casino and winning handsomely seems appealing. But the reality is that this vision rarely works out for most gamblers.

While skill-based games might offer the promise of winning big, they also feature the following downsides that must be accounted for.

Potential for Accelerated Losses

You may think that losing on a slot machine with an 8% house edge or on an American roulette table with a 5.26% house edge is bad. But try being the biggest fish at a poker table with nine experienced players.

Earlier, I mentioned how the lack of a house edge in skill-based gambling is a positive aspect. However, it can also work against you.

If you’re absolutely terrible at poker, for example, you could be facing a 20% disadvantage or worse. You’re better off choosing a low-paying slot machine or making bad craps bets in this scenario.

You Must Spend Time Learning Strategy to Win

Certain types of skill-based gambling aren’t that bad in terms of strategy. For example, you can use expert blackjack strategy simply by referring to your chart every time.

Other games, though, require a lot more dedication to succeed. Poker, esports betting, sports betting, and video poker all involve a high degree of skill. You must decide how much time you really want to put into learning these games before playing.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from enjoying skill-based gaming without learning strategy, but you’ll eventually become frustrated if you keep losing money.

Games Can Get Boring – Even When You’re Winning

Being a profitable poker pro or sports bettor seems like the life. However, a professional gambling career can get stale after a while.

Sure, you’ll be bringing in consistent profits from entertaining games, but this process becomes a grind after a while.

In fact, poker pros are often called “grinders.” They sit at the tables for hours a day trying to maintain their focus while making the right play over and over.

Poker may seem exciting when you’re occasionally playing home games with your buddies. It’s a much different story, though, when you have to do it every day for a living.

Esports and sports gambling aren’t much better in terms of stimulation. You don’t get to watch gaming tournaments and sporting events as a fan; you instead do it as somebody who’s looking for a small edge on their next bet.

Many pro gamblers seem to enjoy their professions from an overall perspective, but it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

What Type of Gambling Should You Focus On?

The ideal scenario is that you become really good at skill-based gambling. Skill games give you the strongest chance to win on average.

Poker, esports betting, and sports betting are especially worth improving at because they don’t feature a house edge. Professional bettors and poker pros can make big profits if they’re good enough.

However, the problem with skill-based gaming is that it’s also hard to excel with. You’re not going to dominate poker or esports betting without putting work into the matter.

If studying strategy and steadily improving your game doesn’t sound appealing, then you may prefer luck-based gaming.

Baccarat, blackjack, craps, and slot machines don’t require much strategy. At the most, you’ll need to look up which bets and/or variations offer the best chance to win.

Luck-based games are great from the perspective that they don’t involve much thought. You can instead sit back and enjoy the action.

The downside, though, is that you don’t have any control over your results. You also can’t use stimulating strategy to increase your odds of winning.

There’s no right or wrong answer when picking between skilled and luck-based gambling. You simply need to evaluate the pros and cons of each, then make a decision based on your personal preferences.

Michael Stevens: Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.